By Brian Nadon
I am the father of a “Ginger” – a Golden Retriever I love with all my heart. This is really very complicated at times. It is so heartbreakingly beautiful and difficult at the same moment. On top of this, Ginger is changing continuously. She is impossible to organize and keep clean. She follows the rules and then breaks them all every day. Sounds like a child doesn’t it!
Living with this Golden means that there are moments of such joy that I can hardly believe I am this lucky to be her father. She licks my face when I sing to her and I laugh. Time stands still during these moments and it is perfect. The thing is, there is this voice of fear that creeps up inside too often during these moments. It says things like, “What if something ever happens to her?” What the hell fear! This was a perfectly Golden moment until you poked your little head into it.
I used to think this is just what it means to love something, that one can hardly enjoy a perfect moment with anyone without being completely gripped by fear. But recently I heard some beautiful and challenging words from the researcher and storyteller, Dr. Brené Brown. She said that in all her years of intensive research, gathering stories of people’s lives and listening to them in their most vulnerable truth-telling, she has found that JOY is the single most difficult emotion to experience. She talks about this very human tendency, that as soon as joy creeps in, we are sabotaged by fear. She believes that it takes the utmost courage to show up in our lives and practice joy.
What?!? This completely floored me and also made total sense. The experience of true joy is so absolutely vulnerable and so out of my own control. It is a call to the utmost presence in the moment. I realized that too often I let fear pull me right out of the joy. I do not want this kind of fear in my life.
What if the greatest gift we can give our world around us is our joy? What if our total presence and delight at any given moment is the thing that will help everyone (including my Ginger) feel known, safe and give them the courage to expand and grow? I know that for me, I would like to choose more joy than fear.
I guess raising a Golden Retriever like my Ginger is no different than raising a little human or trying to bring joy to the world around us. There’s nothing more human than being vulnerable, letting myself be alive and truly experience joy.